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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’ by Dean Mayes


In 1950s Australia, during the height of the divisive White Australia Policy, Virginia, a young Aboriginal girl is taken from her home and family and put to work on an isolated, outback station, in the cruelest of conditions. Her only solace: the violin, taught to her in secret by a kind-hearted white woman – the wife of the abusive station owner. However, Virginia’s prodigious musical gift cannot save her from years of hardship, abuse, and racism.

Decades later, her eight year old granddaughter, Ruby, plays the violin with a passion Virginia once possessed. Amidst abject poverty, domestic violence and social dysfunction, Ruby escapes her circumstance through her practice, with her grandmother’s frail, guiding hand. Ruby’s zeal attracts the attention of an enigmatic music professor, and with his help, Ruby embarks on an incredible journey of musical discovery that will culminate in a once in a life time chance for a brighter future. But with two cultural worlds colliding, her gift and her ambition will be threatened by deeply ingrained distrust, family jealousies and tragic secrets that will define her very identity.
Photograph of Australian author Dean MayesDean Mayes, hails from Victoria, Australia, although these days he lives in Adelaide, with his partner and family.

Dean grew up with an early love of words – a trait a little out of step for most children of his age and has been writing and creating for most of his life…or at least for as long as he could wield a pen and knew how to use it.
His creative streak was inspired by his third grade teacher, Mrs. Furnell, who challenged him in his creative writing exercises which he initially “sucked at”. After producing a surprisingly poignant piece about a soldier’s experience of war (based on his grandfather’s experiences), Dean received his first writing award – a Purple Dragon sticker.
The genesis for what became his first published novel came in 2008, when Dean started an internet blog and decided to craft a story ‘on the fly’, with no bells or whistles and put it up in instalments each week. He would announce a new edition on Facebook and Twitter and let anybody who wanted to, read it. Dean suddenly found himself with a dedicated readership, a following who, hooked on the story, would ‘tune in’ each week to read the next instalment and encourage Dean to keep writing more.
One particular message, was to signal the turning point in Dean’s writing career. It invited him to have a look at Central Avenue Publishing of Vancouver. After talking with C.A.P’s creative director Michelle Halket, Dean became very serious about his project. He stopped publishing the story to the blog and began constructing the manuscript, stealing time whenever he could to work on the story. Within a few months the manuscript, now renamed, “The Hambledown Dream”, was completed, submitted and accepted for publication.

Since its publication, ‘The Hambledown Dream’ has received critical acclaim from across the globe and has fired Dean’s creative spark to continue writing, thus bringing us up to date, with the publication of his second novel, ‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’, which, in October 2013,  was nominated as a finalist in the prestigious EPIC Awards for contemporary fiction and has been described as a work of significant literary achievement.
Though she was too young to comprehend the full gravity of what had just happened, Virginia Crammond knew in the depths of her soul that she would never see her mother again.
No one is beyond suitability for learning, my child – no matter who you are or where you come from. If you have the desire to learn – a fire in your belly that drives you – then … you can prevail in your search.
Because, in that moment, here in their little sanctuary, they were all together, bound by something greater than anything that sought to tear them apart. Their love for one another.
You are from the Peramangk – that is your country. Don’t let anyone take that away from you. They are a proud people. Remember!
“You can’t fix us, don’t you understand? You never could”
I was honoured enough to have read Dean Mayes debut novel ‘The Hambledown Dream’ and couldn’t imagine just how this could be bettered  in any future  storyline …. Just how wrong could I have been …. ‘Gifts Of the Peramangk’ really did leave me speechless, with its eloquent language, intricately drawn characters, detailed descriptions, and its heart-wrenching and tragic, yet strangley uplifting storyline.
For anyone who has read ‘The Hambledown Dream’, the moment where the two storylines run parallel, then converge, will have been noted for its sympathetic blending, and sensitive handling. The moment of recognition for the reader, is fleeting and crafted with great skill, so for those of you who have not read Dean’s debut novel, you would not notice anything untoward in ‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’, that would distract you from this unique, emotional and totally absorbing storyline … Dean certainly has a rare talent and the blending of the two stories can only be described as inspired.
We have a community which has embraced the cultural blending of its white Australians, with the  indigenous Aboriginal native population, being torn asunder by a system which is ostensibly there to protect the Aborigines, but which in reality, is the instigator of  practices which could only have been thought of as barabaric, if they had ever dared to have been acknowledged by an outside world, which must undoubtedly have known of their existence!
Virginia’s experiences at the hands of the system, separates her from her loving and devoted, mixed-race family, which even at so young an age, she realises she will never see again and puts her instead, into a place of great danger and in the midst of a situation which demands every ounce of courage her young body and mind can muster, to survive. Just one kind person, who offers wise words, small deeds of encouragement and a precious gift, stays with Virginia for the rest of her life, even as she is cruelly punished for these liaisons and is cast aside to fend for herself, now that her usefulness has ended.
Dean paints a vivid picture of the proud, dignified and stoic woman Virginia has become in later life, despite the knock-backs she has received along every step of the way. She realises only too well, that as a mother, she has failed to protect and guide her children into a better life than she had ever had. She had been too badly damaged, left insecure and way too immature to take control of their destiny and future together, leaving the family destroyed, her son hating her and almost any person in authority, with an emotion which is raw and almost feral. The family is then confined to a neighbourhood where racial tensions still run high, thus  fanning the flames of his mistrust of the system which he feels has cruelly failed him and his own family, therefore justifying to himself, the criminal, knife-edge existence he leads and the abuse which he considers it his right to administer.
Virginia’s single-minded resolve and determination to forge a better future for her grand-daughter Ruby, when fate has so cruelly robbed her of a mother, is dealt with in a truly thought provoking and emotional way by Dean, as Virginia is so clearly consumed with guilt about her daughters tragic death. Her two gifts to Ruby, the one an innate strength of character, the other a physical symbol of the lasting pride of a nation.
At Dean’s skilled and expert hand, with his own beautiful music of language, Ruby’s music becomes the single unifying element for a family, so far down the road of self destruction and self loathing, that the healing process will be long and tortuous, but upon which the seeds of a new beginning will be planted. The music takes on a character all its own, such is its importance to the very future of each and every member of the family. Only thanks to the kindness of strangers, who also have to stand firm against the racisim and prejudice of those in authority, in order to give Ruby a chance to not only follow her own dream, but to begin the reconciliation process for those dearest to her.
Coming as I do, from the UK, where we had our own horrific policy of enforced ‘Child Migration’, this story rang out loud and clear, as a sad and poignant reminder of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. Yet at the same time, through the determination, tenacity and passion of one elderly lady and a small child ‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’, was also an ispirational and uplifting testament to man’s ability to rise against the odds and achieve their full potential. Definitely a story to be slowly savoured and enjoyed, coming as it does from an author who is as fluent with his pen and words, as Ruby is with her violin and music.
That which you seek may well be closer than you think.

As ‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’ was a review request, a Kindle download was sent to me by its author, Dean Mayes, free of charge.

This in no way influenced any comments I may have expressed about the book, in any blog article I have posted. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 5 out of 5.

Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • Hi Tracy,

    I guess that music is used as a tool and medium by many authors, as it is a universal language, which can be understood by everyone, transcending cutural, racial and social economic differences, with its power to move the human spirit and psyche.

    The book is inspirational in its concept and so beautifully executed and written by Dean, that the reader could not fail to be moved.

    I guess you can tell that I loved this book, definitely right there up at the top of the pile this year! I thoroughly recommend it.

    Thanks for taking the time to check out the post and leave your comments, it is appreciated, as always.

    • Hi Lisa,

      It is always good to ‘meet’ new visitors to Fiction Books, so thanks for stopping by.

      I first met Dean when he was busy posting his weekly online instalments, of what was to eventually become the fantastic ‘The Hambledown Dream’, as a blog.

      His dedicated following of fans just waiting for the next episode, was growing exponentially and resulted in him being approached by Central Avenue Publishing, rather than him needing to chase down publishers himself, as is so often the case.

      Michelle certainly recognised talent when she saw it!

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  • Gifts Of The Peramangk sounds like an interesting novel and Virginia and Ruby sound like unforgettable characters. I am intrigued by the whole Australian/Aborigine theme as well as Ruby’s music. And I had no idea about the child migration. Wow!

    • Hi Naida,

      ‘Gifts Of the Peramangk’ really was an unforgettable book and gave me a much needed insight into the relationships between the Australian migrants and their indigenous Aboriginal counterparts.

      In some respects, I guess that this ’rounding up’ of Aborigines and almost confining them to live in particular places, is not dissimilar from the treatment meted out to the Native American population, in areas of the US.

      Our own history, here in the UK, certainly isn’t ‘squeaky clean’ by any means and in many respects, the fact that we were still actively pursuing a Child Migration policy way into the 1950’s, makes things even worse.

      When I researched the subject of child migration, whilst reading ‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’, I was amazed by the number of countries where this kind of policy was deemed acceptable, making Ruby and Virginia’s story even more poignant and believable.

      Thanks for stopping by, I hope that you have had a good week and that your weekend is set to be a relaxing one.

  • This is a story on a subject that I have no knowledge of, so it sounds very interesting to me. I have a huge TBR pile, but am very tempted to add this book.

    • Hi Vicki,

      The fact that this story dealt with issues I had no real knowledge of, was one of the reasons I read it in the first place. That and the fact that Dean Mayes debut novel ‘The Hambledown Dream’, was such an excellent read and so expressively written, that it held me in thrall all the time I was reading.

      ‘Gifts Of the Peramangk’ certainly didn’t disappoint on any count and I couldn’t have asked for a more poignant and moving storyline, made all the more so as it was based on events which happened in reality.

      I have a huge review request pile, without all the books that I would like to get to one of these days, on my own bookshelves, but I am so glad that I made the time for ‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’

      Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your comments and have a great Thanksgiving.

Written by Yvonne